The Practical Nomad Edward Hasbrouck

Are you trying to sell me something?

How to pitch me: Notes and advice for publicists, marketers, and advertising salespeople

(Please read this page before you contact me.)


How to pitch me | Don't | Do | Media directories | E-mail delivery services | Freebies
Guest blogging | Paid content | Ad sales | Link exchanges | Content licensing | Feedback

How to pitch me:

I'm a self-employed freelancer and self-publisher (as well as having my books published by a major travel publisher). I try to make myself accessible, and I'm always happy to hear from fellow travellers and fellow journalists. Feel free to call me if you're if you are a traveller who wants advice you can't find in my books or on this Web site; if you are a journalist looking for expert comment for a story of your own; if you are interested in having me speak at your event, having me appear as a guest on your talk show, or hiring me as a consultant; or if you are promoting a place as a travel destination and want to offer me a free ticket to come there and experience it for myself.

I get a lot of useful information from publicists and marketers. I've published stories prompted by press releases that came in over the transom from completely unknown publicists. But I get a lot of sales and public relations pitches, including cold calls. If I gave them all as much time as they want, I'd never get anything written. Unnecessary commercial interruptions are extremely costly, especially when I'm trying to write and it takes time to recover my concentration. If I were making more money, I could afford to hire an assistant to filter the calls and e-mail, but I'm not and I can't.

I read all the e-mail sent to the e-mail address on this Web site, and the phone number on this site is my mobile/cell phone number. Here are some suggestions and tips that will save us both time. Please read these before you send me a press release, call me to pitch a story, or put me on your press list.

I write and speak about travel as an aspect of life: something we do, not something we buy. There is an industry of companies and people who sell services to travellers, but travel is an activity, not an industry; an experience, not a product. We may pay for transportation and for places to sleep, just as we may pay for schooling, but we can't buy experience any more than we can buy enlightenment -- even if, in the best of worlds, travel sometimes brings us both. I abhor the commodification of travel, and I write and speak about how my readers and listeners can avoid it.

In prior life I've worked as a publicist for a travel company, and as a researcher and interviewer compiling profiles of journalists' preferences for a media directory of the old-fashioned opt-in kind that asked people, in advance, whether they want to be listed and how they wanted to be pitched. I know that p.r. can be a hard job, even if I was paid a lot more for some of my marketing and p.r. work than I make now as a travel writer. I'm not trying to be a jerk, and I apologize in advance if my anger at disrespectful publicists sometimes comes out at people who mean well and don't realize that what they are doing is inappropriate. I'm trying to avoid that by giving you fair warning about my preferences. I know this page may seem dauntingly long, but if you want me to take the time to consider your pitch, please take the time to read this first.

Summary for impatient readers:


Don't:

Do:

News media and blogger directories and lists:

Today's best-known media contact directories are, sadly, opt-out, not opt-in. Vocus told me that, "We do not harvest or scrape email addresses from the public Internet", but admitted later in the same message that they had done exactly that. I don't know where Cision (formerly Bacon's) or Gorkana (a division of Durrant's) got their information about me. If you are sending press releases to a list of addresses you bought or rented from Cision, Vocus, or Gorkana, or using a p.r. agency that uses their lists, be aware that their lists include people who don't know they are on those lists, didn't ask to be on them, weren't told they were on them, and had no opportunity to explain whether or how they want to be contacted by p.r. people. I'm not the first journalist or blogger to have called these companies on these practices, but they haven't cleaned up their act.

I have asked Cision and Vocus not to put me on their lists unless and until they switch to an opt-in model, but there's no guarantee they won't put me back on their lists without my knowledge. Cision says that they have started telling new people when they add them to Cision lists, but they don't ask for permission first, and they haven't given those who were already on their lists a chance to opt out, much less to ask if they want to opt in. Neither Cision nor Vocus appears to require their clients to identify the source of the list used for each message, or to include opt-out addresses or links in their p.r. pitches. Cision's policy is not to tell journalists or bloggers to whom they have sold information about us (it's not even clear from what they've told me whether they keep records themselves), so there's no way I can contact those recipients to correct their misinformation about me, or to get off the p.r. spam lists they've put me on.

Because neither Cision, Vocus, nor Gorkana limits its listings to those who have "opted in" or consented to be listed, sending e-mail to addresses obtained from Cision or Vocus through Constant Contact, Exact Target, or other e-mail delivery services that limit usage to opt-in or consensual lists violates those e-mail delivery services' contractual conditions of use.

Cision's actions are also illegal. Cision is a Swedish company whose operations worldwide are subject to Swedish data protection law, and which explicitly (although falsely) claims that its (apparently non-existent) policies on notice, consent, onward transfer and usage of information, etc. comply with European Union law (which they don't), and that "The information we collect is not shared with email advertisers or other parties," when in fact Cision shares information with anyone willing to pay for a subscription to their media directories and databases. Meltwater Group appears to be doing many of the same things as Cision and Vocus, including scraping addresses from Web pages and putting them on distribution lists without asking permission, but Meltwater hasn't yet been willing to talk to me about their methodology or their policies. Meltwater appears to be a Norwegian company, which if so would make it subject to Norwegian data protection law.

If you or your p.r. agency are using unverified lists from Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater, you are inevitably damaging your reputation (and that of your clients), as well as getting ripped off by Cision and/or Vocus, by spamming some people who don't write about anything related to your pitch, while ignoring journalists like me who don't want (and can't afford) to be bombarded with p.r. spam, but who might welcome your message if you contacted us individually. I'm not a client of Cision or Vocus, and what Vocus is doing as a U.S. company is at least arguably legal (if offensive), so I can only ask, not demand, that they change their practices.

If you are a marketer, publicist, or p.r agency who cares about your reputation in the blogosphere, I, like other recipients/victims of Cision, Vocus, and their ilk, encourage you to demand that Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, Meltwater, and similar "services" switch to a fully transparent and fully opt-in model, including purging their lists of entries added without opt in, and that -- for the sake of your own reputation, that of your clients, and the effectiveness of your p.r. work -- you stop patronizing Cision, Vocus, Gorkana, or Meltwater or using any addresses previously imported from them unless and until they clean up their lists and clean up their act by adding enforceable terms to their contracts requiring subscribers to identify the source of the list; pass opt-out requests, corrections, or changes back to the list broker or directory; and honor opt-out requests, corrections, or changes from the list broker or directory. If you find out your p.r. agency is spamming journalists, fire the agency, publicly, as other travel companies have done, and do your own p.r. or find a legitimate agency to do it for you.

Yes, I have made these suggestions directly to Cision and Vocus. Vocus referred my suggestions for policy changes to their public relations director, who offered excuses ("Vocus is a technology company, not a p.r. company. We don't tell p.r professionals how to do their jobs"), rather than to anyone with decision-making authority to change their contractual terms or practices. Cision referred me to someone who claimed to be the responsible person, but months have passed and so far as I know they have yet to make any substantive changes.

Third-party e-mail delivery services:

Many spammers use third-party e-mail delivery services such as Constant Contact and Exact Target to deliver their messages, as a way of evading blocking of e-mail from their own domains. I have opted out of these spam delivery services. If you want your e-mail message to be delivered, send it yourself. Don't forge the headers or use services that conceal the real sender, and don't endorse spam delivery services or associate yourself with them by sending your e-mail through them. Messages sent from or via ConstantContact.com (or their aliases including Roving.com) or ExactTarget.com will not be received, or will be deleted unread. I'll reconsider whether to accept mail sent via these spam facilitation services if and when they start publicly terminating accounts and pursuing damage claims for fraud against those spammers who falsely warrant that their lists are "opt-in" or consensual, when in fact they aren't (as, for example, when they include addresses obtained from Cision or Vocus).

Freebies, junkets, and press trips:

As disclosed elsewhere, and in individual articles, I accept some free, subsidized, and discounted travel, and I welcome such offers.

If you want me to write about a destination I haven't been to, by far the the best way is to offer me a free ticket to get there, and/or a week's free accommodations in a hostel or other low-budget lodging -- no strings attached, with no commitment that I'll write anything about it, and with the promise that if I publish anything about it, I will disclose that you paid for my ticket and/or subsidized my lodging.

I'm unlikely to write about a specific place sight unseen. If you send me a press release about a destination, and I respond with, "That sounds interesting. Can you get me there so I can check it out and maybe write about it?", that means your p.r pitch was a success. Congratulations! If I'm not already going to be nearby (you can usually tell from my schedule ), and you aren't prepared to get me there, you are probably wasting your time, and mine, pitching me about the destination or event.

I've never been on a group or escorted press trip, although I wouldn't rule it out. I write about independent travel, and I travel on my own. I've very rarely been on any sort of group, escorted, packaged, or pre-arranged tour, and I wouldn't expect an organized group junket to give me much information about independent travel. To do my kind of writing about a destination, for my readers, I need a chance to explore on my own, without a guide, "minder", or advance reservations.

I welcome opportunities to visit new and different places, to revisit those I haven't been to recently, and to experience new and different airlines. I travel cheaply, I often stay in hostels (I'm a life member of Hostelling International) and I fly coach/economy/3rd class and on "low-fare" airlines. I've flown entirely around the world on Aeroflot. (I wrote about it, and it wasn't what you might imagine.) I prefer to travel in the off-season, not during special events. For me, part of researching a destination is finding out how easy it is to get around, and what it costs, for independent travellers who aren't on a tour and arrive without reservations. So the limiting factor in my ability to visit your destination and incorporate it into my writing is usually long-haul air, rail, and rental car transportation costs, rather than accommodations (except in unavoidably expensive destinations, which don't tend to be my beat, and where what's most interesting to me are the possibilities for affordable lodging). I'm more likely to be able to afford to visit if I'm already going to be nearby, or at least on the same continent or in the same region. Feel free to send me an invitation. I'm happy to "sing for my supper" by giving travel talks while I'm in your area, if you can line up venues and local hosts.

If you want me to write about a Web site or service, expect me to try it. Offer me a trial. If that's not feasible, offer to put me in touch with people who have used the service. If you want me to write about a tangible product, offer to send me a sample to try, either as a gift or loan (no strings attached, with no commitment that I'll write anything about it, and with the promise that if I publish anything about it, I will disclose that you gave or lent me a sample). I welcome and encourage you to send review copies of books, sample copies of magazines, or URL's of Web sites that you want considered for inclusion in the resource guide in the next edition of The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World. (Read the current edition of the book for an idea of what is likely to be appropriate.)

Guest bloggers:

I occasionally publish contributions by guest bloggers. To date, I haven't been able to pay for guest blog entries, but I'll give you credit with a link, and ask only for nonexclusive rights.

If you're interested, send me a brief pitch summarizing what you'd like to write about, preferably with a link to your own blog or some other sample of your writing. I'm especially interested in guest columns by experts (guidebook authors, people who are from or live in or have travelled extensively in the destination, etc.) on independent travel to destinations to be visited in upcoming episodes of The Amazing Race. There are usually spoilers of most of the route as the race is being filmed, one to six months before each season is broadcast. If you are an independent expert on the destination of an upcoming episode, contact me as far in advance as possible (although a guest column may be possible even at the last minute).

If you want to pay me to run your content as a "guest" blog entry, or you want to offer to ghost-write an article for my blog in exchange for my agreement to include a link to your business or your client, forget it. I don't accept advertorials, infomercials, or "paid content", except in the form of clearly identifiable advertising. To the extent possible for a one-person operation where the writer/editor is also the advertising salesperson, I maintain a separation of advertising and editorial content.

Advertorials and paid content

No. Don't ask. (Here's an object lesson of what not to do.) I'm a professional writer and journalist. I don't need or want your ghost writers, and I don't accept advertorials or paid content. If you want to pay to publish something, publish it yourself or submit it for publication as a clearly-disclosed paid advertisement (see below).

Advertising sales

Yes, I accept some advertising on this Web site. You can see that, so you don't need to ask.

I don't accept any ads for unknown advertisers or without reviewing them individually in advance. I don't have a standard ad rate -- it depends on the ad, the placement, the payment scheme, etc. Make me an offer. Don't waste my time and yours asking if I accept ads without making a firm offer with the ad and the price.

Send me a copy of the ad, or a pointer to the URL where I can see it, with a message like this: "I would like to place the ad (attached) (at URL) for (client) for (product or service) on your page (URL) (run of site?) (page placement?) for (time period?) (open run?). I will pay (US$___) (___% of sale) (per impression) (per click) (per action)."

If you are offering an affiliate relationship, don't beat around the bush: "I would like to offer you an affiliation with (vendor, product, or service). We pay (explanation or URL with compensation scheme). You can sign up at (URL)."

Vague advertising or affiliate enquiries without this information will be ignored -- I can't afford the time to worry about them.

All ads or affiliate links will be fully disclosed, and I'm likely to be suspicious of advertisers who don't require that their advertisements, product placements, paid content, or affiliate links be fully disclosed.

Link exchanges:

I don't "exchange links" with anyone. Don't bother to ask. If you want to link to my site, link to it. If I want to link to your site, I'll link to it, to the specific URL and in the specific manner I choose. If you've got a site you think might interest me and/or my readers, tell me about it and tell me why I might want to link to it. (Not why you want me to do so, but why you think I might want to do so.) I link to another site only if I think my readers might find the link interesting or useful, or if it's a paid or affiliate advertisement link clearly identifiable as such.

Content licensing:

Make me an offer if you'd like to license or syndicate content from this Web site, my e-mail newsletter, or my books. There's no need to ask permission to link to this site (or any other), but it's a kindness to let me know that you've done so. In general, unless you are prepared to pay for a syndication license, the answer to all questions of the form, "May I copy your article from (URL) on my Web site?" is, "No. Link to it instead. That's what links are for, and that way if I update it, visitors to your Web site who follow the link automatically get the updated version." I've had too many problems in the past trying to keep mirror copies of my FAQ's in sync.

Feedback:

Got a problem with this page? Suggestions for how to improve it? Send me an e-mail message. Thanks for your help!

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